Usually the man posing the difficult questions, veteran TV interviewer Andrew Denton is just as adept at being in the hot seat. And in the wake of a serious health scare, he’s got a lot to say.
There are no cameras or cameramen inside the darkened studio where I meet Andrew Denton. No cables or gaffers or booms in this silent space in central Sydney. No audience, either. Just him, me, 200 empty folding seats, and a stage set with a pair of elegant blue Featherston chairs.
The latter are what Denton refers to as a “visual signifier” for his bare-bones chat show, Interview. He plonks people down in this spot every week – Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns one night, family violence campaigner Rosie Batty the next – and probes their lives in a coaxing and conversational manner that has become his stock in trade, if not his trademark, over three decades in Australian television.
I’m turning the tables to interview the interviewer, as it were, about his return to the screen after a five-year hiatus, but I’ve also come to the sprawling Carriageworks complex this sunny Wednesday morning in late May to have an in-depth chat about how his life almost abruptly ended in 2017, following a critical health scare.
The tagline for Denton’s show is “Two people, two chairs, one conversation, no gimmicks”, and I’m happy to co-opt that as the conceit for our tête-à-tête. We nestle into our seats – comfy! – and I take a leaf out of his interrogatory playbook, offering an easy lob question first, as he does, to get the responses flowing, and build rapport. What’s the goal of the show?
Photography by Tim Bauer